I have been humbled as I watch the Amish affected by the school shooting last week exercise true forgiveness over the course of this week. Monday the horrific shooting, Thursday and Friday funerals for the five little girls killed, Saturday a funeral for the killer. Even today the other five victim continue to heal, one remaining in grave danger. And yet the grace and love the Amish are extending is what fills the headlines. “Amish Mourn Gunman.” “Forgiveness Woven Into Life of the Amish.” The author of the last article is Donald Kraybill, a distinguished professor at Elizabethtown College and author of books on Amish culture. To quote a portion of his article:
“In many ways, the Amish are better equipped to process grief than are many other Americans. First, their faith sees even tragic events under the canopy of divine providence, having a higher purpose or meaning hidden from human sight at first glance. The Amish don’t argue with God. They have an enormous capacity to absorb adversity – a willingness to yield to divine providence in the face of hostility. Such religious resolve enables them to move forward without the endless paralysis of analysis that asks why, letting the analysis rest in the hands of God.
“Second, their historic habits of mutual aid – such as barn-raising – arise from their understanding that Christian teaching compels them to care for one another in time of disaster. . . . In moments of disaster, the resources of this socio-spiritual capital spring into action. Meals are brought to grieving families. Neighbors milk cows and perform other daily chores. Hundreds of friends and neighbors visit the home of the bereaved to share quiet words and simply the gift of presence. After the burial, adult women who have lost a close family member will wear black dresses in public for as long as a year to signal their mourning and welcome visits of support.
“In all these ways, Amish faith and culture provide profound resources for processing the sting of death. Make no mistake: Death is painful. Many tears are shed. The pain is sharp, searing the hearts of Amish mothers and fathers as it would those of any other parents.”
Another article , “Heartbreaking Bravery in the Face of Death” in the Philadelphia Inquirer focuses on the bravery and self-sacrifice of the girls. These are the kind of events that I can’t understand. I add the “whys” to the list of questions that I will ask God when I see Him in heaven. But I will trust that somehow He will use the quiet, sincere faith of these precious people. And pray that God will hold them close and that He will teach me how to accept life without never-ending analysis and whys.